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Wednesday April 18, 2007

Malaysia wants longer peacekeeping tenure

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia hopes that its peacekeeping force can be stationed in Lebanon for another three months, said Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal. 

He said the Defence Ministry was working on extending the tenure of the 360 Malaysian soldiers serving under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) to nine months instead of the present six months. 

“We are working on that,” said Jen Abdul Aziz, who returned recently from Lebanon after visiting the Malaysian soldiers deployed in Kaukoba. 

He also said he hoped that Malaysia would be allowed to continue sending troops in batches to keep peace in Lebanon for at least three years. 

He was speaking at a press conference after Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak delivered a speech at the International Military Operations and Law Conference.  

The Deputy Prime Minister, who was also at the press conference, said the extension was up to the United Nations. 

“We are guided by the UN. We wanted to send a mechanised battalion but we were kept at 360 soldiers,” he said. 

Last July, Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, resulting in Israel launching an attack on the country that lasted for 34 days. 

After the ceasefire, the United Nations deployed a peacekeeping force from a number of countries, including Malaysia. 

Earlier in his speech, Najib said Malaysia still had some reservations about the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), especially the legal aspects, which “we feel do not conform with accepted international norms.” 

Nevertheless, he said, Malaysia was certainly concerned over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their components. 

He added that Malaysia supported the ideals of the PSI and had been participating as an observer for the past two years. 

The PSI is an informal arrangement among countries to cooperate to intercept and disrupt the illicit export of WMD and components.  


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